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San Diego restaurants expand to parking lots and sidewalks to stay afloat

Posted at 6:09 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 21:09:55-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Just days after San Diego County ordered a shutdown of indoor dining and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed an executive order that makes it easier for restaurants to move seating outdoors, many restaurants are already opening up business outside.

Johan Engman is the owner of Rise and Shine Hospitality, which has 18 restaurant locations under the umbrella. Ten of those are Breakfast Republic. He said about half of the 18 locations have expanded to include either sidewalk, parking lot, or shared courtyard space for tables.

“Let’s not waste our time complaining or feeling sorry for ourselves. Let’s figure out what do we need to do to give us the best odds to survive this and let’s just do it,” said Engman.

For the Pacific Beach Breakfast Republic location, he said there were about 170 seats prior to coronavirus. Once there were social distancing limits, he could seat about 80. With the new ban on indoor seating, that left only about 30 seats on his patio, so the addition of parking lot space will bump seating back up to about 80 people. He said financially, they’re taking a hit, but he made the decision to stay open to help his employees.

“Not only seeing how financially detrimental that is, but the morale. So you lay off all your managers then you hire them back. Imagine them literally a couple weeks later you send that message again,” he said.

Similarly, La Puerta is seeing the roller coaster of numbers. Owner Merritte Powell said the Gaslamp restaurant is also expanding onto the sidewalk. He said customers will notice a difference, but hopes something is better than nothing.

“You’re sitting next to a building, next to a doorway, you’re also going to be a couple feet from a parked car,” he said, referring to the new setup.

He said he’s hoping to add plants and lights eventually to make it more aesthetically pleasing and could see a permanent future for sidewalk dining like this if it is successful. He said this could be beneficial in areas like the Gaslamp that lack a lively presence that the outdoor dining will likely bring.

Both business owners said the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control has been working quickly and efficiently to help get them the liquor permits they need for the parking lot. They also both are hoping the city votes to allow parklets next week, which they say will further expand seating and appeal.